Babka “Yada, yada, yada”

I am not sure there is much better than a fresh, warm, chocolate babka. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this bread/pastry/cake I strongly suggest you don’t wait but either make or buy a loaf. Warning, this recipe could ruin you for store bought.

I was going to take a few pictures to illustrate how to make and shape a babka, but the woman who posted this recipe did a great job of it. https://prettysimplesweet.com/shaping-babka. Copy and paste this link into your browser for details.

Chocolate Babka

https://prettysimplesweet.com/chocolate-babka/

INGREDIENTS
For the dough:
• 3¾ cups (530 g) all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting
• ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoon (10g) instant yeast
• 3 large eggs
• ½ cup (120 ml) water
• ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
• ⅔ cup (150 g) unsalted butter , at room temperature, cut into small cubes
• Neutral oil (sunflower, canola) for dressing
For the chocolate filling:
• ½ cup (50 g) powdered sugar
• ⅓ cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
• 130 g dark chocolate , melted*
• ½ cup (120 g) unsalted butter , melted
• ⅔ cup (120 g) chocolate chips or chunks OR 1 cup (100g/3.5oz) pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)
For the sugar syrup:
• ½ cup (120ml) water
• ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar

METHOD
Making the dough:

  1. Place flour, sugar, and yeast in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed until combined. Add eggs and water, and mix on medium speed until dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Add salt, then butter, adding a few cubes at a time, mixing until incorporated. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until dough is completely smooth, elastic, shiny, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. During mixing, you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  2. Place dough in a large bowl brushed with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least half a day or overnight.
  3. Grease two loaf pans (9×4 inch) with oil and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Divide dough in half and keep one half covered in the fridge.
    Making the filling:
  4. Whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter until you have a spreadable paste.
  5. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle measuring 15×11 inches. Position dough so that a long side is closest to you. Using an offset spatula, spread half of the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ inch border all around. Sprinkle half of the pecans or chocolate chips on top of the chocolate.
    Shaping the dough:
  6. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade, then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.
  7. Trim about ¾ inch off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Then use the knife to gently cut the roll in half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam, essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lifting the left half over the right, to create a simple two-pronged plait. Gently squeeze together the other ends so that you are left with the two halves, intertwined, showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake into a loaf pan. Don’t worry if there are gaps in the pan since the cake will rise and will eventually look fine, even if you feel like it’s messy at this point. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours. Repeat to make the second cake.
  8. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C, making sure to allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the cakes have finished rising. Remove plastic wrap or tea towels, place cakes on middle rack of oven, and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean with no dough attached.
  9. While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring water and sugar to a boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from heat and set aside to cool. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush the syrup over them. Use all of the syrup, even if it looks a lot. Let cakes cool until they are warm, then remove from pans and let cool completely before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  10. Babka will stay fresh for 24 hours in an airtight container at room temperature. Don’t place in the fridge.
  11. Babka freezes well for up to 2 months. To thaw, leave on counter or overnight in the fridge.

Recipe Notes

  • To melt butter and chocolate, place them in a heat-proof bowl, and heat in the microwave in 20 second-intervals, stirring in between each interval, until melted and smooth (or alternatively, set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally).

Tangzhong Pillowy White Bread

Tangzhong was developed in Asia and used in both China and Japan as a method of keeping bread soft and fresh. Tangzhong is a mixture of flour, water and milk, heated while stirring until the “water roux” thickens. The tangzhong is added to the rest of the ingredients and processed more or less normally. The result is a soft, pillowy white bread (see how I cleverly incorporated the title into the body of this post?)

I found the rise and proofing times were much longer that suggested in the recipes. I thought my yeast may have lost potency so I tested it in a water/sugar solution. (1/2 cup water @ 110-115F, 1 tsp sugar, 2 1/4 tsp yeast. Mix and after 10 minutes the mixture should have grown to 1 cup. It was fine. The problem is I now had the beginnings of another bread/pastry or something. QA Department to the rescue—See subsequent post on cinnamon rolls.)

The long proof times were likely due to the cooler temperatures in the kitchen today. (It was only 62F when I started.)

Tangzhong Pillowy White Bread

INGREDIENTS

Tangzhong
• 3 tablespoons (43g) water
• 3 tablespoons (43g) whole milk
• 2 tablespoons (14g) Bread Flour

Dough
• 2 1/2 cups (298g) Bread Flour
• 2 tablespoons (14g) nonfat dry milk
• 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon instant yeast
• 1/2 cup (113g) whole milk
• 1 large egg
• 4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, melted

METHOD

Tangzhong

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until no lumps remain.
  2. Place the saucepan over low heat and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until thick and the whisk leaves lines on the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer the tangzhong to a small mixing bowl or measuring cup and let it cool to lukewarm.

    Dough
  4. Combine the tangzhong with the remaining dough ingredients, then mix and knead — by mixer or bread machine — until a smooth, elastic dough forms; this could take almost 15 minutes in a
    stand mixer.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest in a lightly greased bowl, covered, for 60 to 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk. (120 min in cool kitchen)
  6. Gently deflate the dough and divide it into four equal pieces; if you have a scale each piece will weigh between 170g and 175g.
  7. Flatten each piece of dough into a 5″ x 8″ rectangle, then fold the short ends in towards one another like a letter. Flatten the folded pieces into rectangles again (this time about 3″ x 6″) and, starting with a short end, roll them each into a 4″ log.
  8. Place the logs — seam side down and side by side — in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
  9. Cover the loaf and allow it to rest/rise for 40 to 60 minutes, until puffy. (I put the dough into a proofing oven for this and let it rise until the tops of the rolls were even with the top of the pan.)
  10. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  11. Brush the loaf with milk and bake it for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s golden brown on top and a digital thermometer inserted into the center reads at least 190°F.
  12. Remove the loaf from the oven and cool it in the pan until you can transfer it safely to a rack to cool completely.
  13. Store leftover bread, well wrapped, at cool room temperature for 5 to 7 days; freeze for longer storage.